Hyde Park is a haven for great restaurants. Today we were in the mood for Mexican, so bartaco was in. Don’t worry, I didn’t misspell that. bartaco prefers their name to be lowercase. It’s just one of the many quirks of this restaurant with wicker baskets hanging from the ceiling as lamps and an interior design that resembles unfinished construction (in a good way). I know this is important to many readers: There is Wi-Fi available, however on our visit it was not cooperating with my device.
After we took a moment to acquaint ourselves with the ordering style, the next thing was to acquaint ourselves with what was actually on the menu. Have you ever seen duck on a Mexcian cuisine menu? I know I hadn’t, which was why I decided to try that. The other two of my party were vegan and gluten-conscious. Unfortunately, there aren’t a whole lot of options for vegans on this menu. The tacos are coated with butter (although, you can order without butter) and there’s cheese on almost everything. With corn tortillas, however, there was hardly anything on the menu that was not gluten-free!
It was explained to me that all tortilla chips are made from taking a regular floppy tortilla, cutting it into sixths, and frying the individual slices. Well, at bartaco, there’s no cutting involved. You can see the size of these chips. Well, that was also the size of their tortillas (we’ll get to that), so that left the cutting up to us. It was actually a pretty fun experience pushing your finger down in the center of them and watching them crack into quarters. And besides that experience, the salsa and the guac that we got with them were absolutely delicious.
This was a great, flavorful dish. The mahi-mahi was well balanced with the citrus and veg. It’s a bit heavy on avocado — almost to the point that you could describe it as ceviche over guacamole. No complaints here!
The gluten-conscious member of our party decided to have the Lunch Tray, which was a separate card from the normal ordering card. The Lunch Tray includes three tacos and a soup or salad. You can see that the tacos are pretty small, as I alluded to earlier. That’s fine, because the flavor is huge. She really enjoyed those, as well as her soup, which was made with big pieces of veggies including corn on the cob.
The vegan of the group was able to order these two tacos without butter on the tortilla and without cheese. The falafel taco really needed some kind of sauce to balance out the texture of the falafel. As it turns out, the kitchen didn’t have a single vegan sauce to offer as a replacement. The manager eventually emerged with some salsa verde which was great customer service but isn’t enough to recommend this as a vegan-friendly taco. The cauliflower taco, on the other hand, was delicious. So if you’re looking for a vegan option, the cauliflower is your best bet.
I was immediately attracted to the duck. The only other time I’d had duck was when my girlfriend at the time and I decided to have duck instead of turkey for Thanksgiving. It was delicious, but I never came across the opportunity again until this day. The duck rice bowl was amazing, if a little spicy for my taste. That was fine, though, once I navigated around the peppers in the dish. I washed it down with some Florida Cracker beer, one of many local and non-local craft beer options they had available.
This was a side that I ordered along with my duck rice bowl. As I mentioned before, this restaurant served each dish as it was ready, which meant that this corn was delivered after I had already finished my duck rice bowl. That was fine, but I would rather have had the bowl last. In any case, it was quite tasty with a lime, cayenne, and cotija cheese coating. I like the tactile nature of the on-the-cob option, but they also have it available off the cob.
Our server, Pamela, was very friendly and explained the unique ordering system very well. She was as prompt as she could be and seemed to really care about whether we were enjoying our meals. She could have been a little more knowledgeable about dairy-free vegan options or substitutions, but luckily the manager was able to intervene here where she faltered.
The manager, Javier, was very attentive both during his regular table visit and also with the questions about the sauce for the falafel taco. This wasn’t our first time in the restaurant and one thing that’s stood out before is Javier’s attention to detail.